* At least 11 people set themselves on fire since March
* Sangay blames China's increasingly heavy-handed rule
* He and Dalai Lama want real autonomy, not independence
By Frank Jack Daniel
DHARAMSALA, India, Nov 10 Tibet's prime
minister-in-exile said on Thursday he was not encouraging
Tibetans to burn themselves to death in protest at Chinese
repression but it was his sacred duty to show support for the
men and women who have chosen such drastic steps.
A wave of self-immolations has seen at least 11 people,
mainly Buddhist monks and nuns, set themselves ablaze in
predominantly Tibetan areas of China since March, following a
crackdown at monasteries.
Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard educated lawyer who this year
replaced the Dalai Lama as the political leader of the exiled
Tibetans, said an increased Chinese military presence around
monasteries was "undeclared martial law."
"Once a protest takes place it becomes our sacred duty to
show solidarity and support, support for the voice that they
raise, so the life that they sacrifice or the torture that they
endure do not go in vain," Sangay told Reuters.
"My duty as a political leader is echo or if possible
magnify these voices, with sadness and pain obviously," he said
at his offices in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala in India.
He did not repeat an appeal by one of the most senior exiled
monks, the Karmapa Lama, who on Wednesday urged Tibetans in
China not to set themselves on fire.
"We want Tibetan people to live, we want Tibetan people to
lead, definitely. But ... the motivation is for Tibet and for
Tibetan people and their intention is also very clear, not to
harm anyone," he said.
In the latest incident, a Tibetan exile in Nepal set his
clothes alight on Thursday while shouting "Long live Tibet."
Other Tibetans extinguished the flames before he suffered
serious injuries, a witness said.
China says Tibetans are free to practice their faith and
blames the Nobel Peace Prize winning Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet
for India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule,
for inciting the immolations.
Sangay denied that and repeated he and the Dalai Lama are
not seeking Tibet's independence from China, only real autonomy
for their homeland. He said China's increasingly heavy-handed
rule after six decades of occupation was to blame.
"There was an uprising in 2008, the crackdown that followed
has changed the political situation dramatically," Sangay said,
adding the intrusive presence of security forces was disrupting
monastic life -- a central part of Tibet's unique culture.
(Additional reporting by Abhishek Madhukar; Editing by Sophie